My Congressman is Mike Bishop, Republican. If you don’t live in his district, you may not have known he existed until just now. If you’re not from Michigan, I’d be surprised if you’ve heard of him at all. He hasn’t really done much in Washington, as far as I can tell, besides being a warm body the House Republican caucus can count on to vote the way they tell him to. I couldn’t tell you much about him beyond that. He’s a perfectly nondescript Congresscreature who you rarely, if ever, see on the talk shows or the nightly news commentary shows. And that’s OK, really. Not everyone needs to be a star.
So when it’s time to call Washington and give them the what-for about saving the Affordable Care Act, or funding Planned Parenthood, or protecting civil rights for American minority communities, the thought of calling Mike Bishop’s office is … well … not exciting.
There are far more interesting people in Washington. Big, strong personalities that you love or hate. Bernie Sanders. Elizabeth Warren. Keith Ellison. Corey Booker. On the other side of the aisle — Paul Ryan, Steve King, Jason Chaffetz, Jeff Sessions. The list goes on and on, for good and bad. People who grab the headlines and get all the attention.
People you’d like to talk to. But unless they happen to be your own elected representative, don’t.
I get it. You may not have even known the name of your senator or representative until we entered this current dystopian hell. You would rather talk to someone who is more outspoken about the issue you want addressed, or someone who is spearheading an effort you either love or loathe. And it makes some sense — why wouldn’t you want to talk to the opinion leader rather than some minion?
Here’s why: Unless you happen to be their constituent, they don’t really care what you have to say. They don’t owe you anything.
I know that’s blunt, but it’s logical. Elected officials are tasked with serving their own constituents. Bernie Sanders may be pleased to know that you share his ideas on health care or paying for college, but it’s not his job to make you happy. It’s his job to serve the people of Vermont.
Paul Ryan may infuriate you with his plans to rob Americans of their health care and to rip the social safety net to shreds, but your disdain of him can’t touch him. He’s there for the people of his district in Wisconsin.
For elected officials, it all comes down to constituents. If you have the power to vote them into office — or vote them out — they know their future rests in your hands. If you don’t have that ability, if you are not their constituent, then your opinion holds no power over them.
So call the people who represent you. Call them often. Get on a first-name basis with their office staff. Let them know that you’re watching, and that you will hold them accountable.
I’m not saying you must never call Bernie Sanders or Paul Ryan. I, probably more than most people, understand the cathartic release of giving someone who really needs to hear it a piece of your mind. Sometimes doing that gives you the motivation you need to do the more mundane work ahead of you. I get it. Go ahead and do that … right after you call your own politicians first.